The U.S. Navy is developing a weapon that could someday protect submarines and surface ships from enemy torpedoes. Designed to serve as the last line in a layered defensive system, the device is a specialized small-diameter torpedo that tracks and destroys incoming underwater projectiles.
The U.S. Air Force is investigating the feasibility of a coordinated precision engagement system that will enable airborne units to more accurately target an adversary's mobile ground and surface units. Using advanced sensor systems designed for next-generation fighter and surveillance aircraft, service officials hope to combine capabilities in existing air-to-ground missile systems to detect and track seagoing or land-based vehicles from long range, in any weather.
Passwords will become passé as the military moves toward fingerprint reading, iris scanning and voice recognition as gateways to many of its information and weapon systems. As a result of legislation enacted last year, plans are moving forward to use biometrics for identity verification wherever possible. The goal of the coordinated effort is to shore up information assurance throughout the armed forces by replacing the vulnerable password system with technologies that identify "you as you," according to security experts.
Advances in miniaturization, integration and energy management show that a complete wireless sensor/communication system can be merged into a package the size of a grain of sand and networked. Applications are far-reaching-from military sensor networks to industrial quality control.
A wireless communications system offers government organizations the potential to shield both data transmissions and users' geographic locations. The scalable technology can operate in stand-alone networks or through existing public cellular providers, allowing users to make secure calls from almost any location. An optional central administration capacity allows increased security and administrative capabilities, such as the monitoring and control of every participating mobile telephone or handheld computer.
Discussions between commercial and government organizations about spectrum management are coming to a head as third-generation wireless devices that combine today's desktop terminal features and functions in a shirt-pocket-sized handset are poised to enter the marketplace. This communications evolution poses some critical issues for regulators as well as the military. Experts not only must confront the traditional spectrum allocation challenges, but they also must consider separation, partitioning, sharing and reallocation. The policy issue may reduce itself, on the one hand, to minimizing the costs of securing new spectrum for third-generation devices and, on the other hand, to the desire for greater global harmonization.
A new type of optical networking software will enable bandwidths of light to be redistributed in response to fluctuating data traffic. The technology allows individual streams of photons to be moved when and where they are needed, ensuring greater network reliability and near real-time communication.
As the United States and the European Union begin to implement policies designed to open their markets to foreign competition, issues such as wireless spectrum allocation, telephone interconnections and Internet access continue to vex negotiations. While both parties understand the importance of free trade and cooperation, these differences may impede bilateral trade liberalization and deregulation.
It is easy to understand why Gene Colabatistto might be tempted to get by on image. After all, ever since his company launched its first sensor-laden satellite in 1986, the international Spot system has captured and delivered millions of images of Earth-from the sands of the Sahara to the expanse of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Sensor fusion is taking place within the commercial remote sensing arena as military users combine different forms of satellite imagery to generate advanced intelligence and mission planning products. This imagery also is being combined with data from diverse sources such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and topographical archives to redefine geospatial information.
For years, national technical assets were the only game in town for military users of remote sensing imagery. Now, however, a new generation of commercial imaging satellites promises to play an important role in future military operations. Their improved quality and increased versatility may even change tactics and strategy for theater activities.
A combination of faster computing capabilities, lower cost storage and improved software is opening new markets for commercial satellite imagery in the 1-meter and, in the future, 0.5-meter resolution range. Although these images were once reserved for U.S. government and military uses, today a wide range of organizations is purchasing them to support their missions. From monitoring activity in other countries and creating accurate simulation models to mapping underwater environments, pictures taken from space have become a valuable tool and have ushered the world into what some have termed the age of transparency.